Last year, Mollie Bird and her mother, Melissa Hull, were awarded 501(c)3 nonprofit status for their horse rescue organization, Treadway Equine Animal Rescue Sanctuary (TEARS).
The sanctuary is located on their farm on Route 66 north of Rogersville near the Clinch Valley Road intersection.
They take in unwanted, neglected or abandoned horses, and on Wednesday the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office referred three starving horses and a mini donkey to TEARS that will require extensive and costly care to recuperate.
Last week a complaint was filed against a Mooresburg man whose four animals were obviously on the verge of starving to death.
“It was a very sad situation because the man really loved these horses,” Hull told the times-News Thursday. “He was just down and out and was not able to feed them. He had put a wire fence around his yard and was trying to feed them off the grass in his yard, but that was not going to sustain them and there was not anything out there for them to eat.”
Hull added, “The sheriff’s department gave him a choice of either going to jail and being charged with animal cruelty, or he would just surrender the horses to us. But it’s not like he was doing it deliberately. It’s happening to people everywhere. The economy is so bad that people’s animals are the first to suffer.”
TEARS is asking for help from the community to get their four new animals healthy enough to be adopted, while also maintaining the other horses in their care.
They need donations of feed including oats, rice bran, beet pulp, and hay — or the funds to buy it. Feeding the other horses in their care was costing $300 per week, and in the winter there were added expenses for blankets and extra grain.
Hull said the winter has stretched her funds to the limit, and they’ve been covering costs out of their pocket, but they won’t be able to continue doing that for long.
She added, “These (new) horses are going to need extreme farrier care, they need vet care, they’re all bony so they’re going to require a lot of feed to get their weight up. They didn’t even know what grain was when we put grain out to feed them. They looked at us and had no clue what grain was and it took them over an hour to decide it was something they needed to eat. They weren’t even sure about the hay.”
The Mooresburg man was cited into Hawkins County Sessions Court for animal neglect, and his case is pending. But it’s expected that the judge will look favorably on him because he surrendered the animals.
But that also means TEARS won’t receive any help from the county boarding the animals.
“Even though the horses are surrendered to us, we have to keep them as evidence until the court case is resolved,” Hull said. “Had he not surrendered the horses and instead an animal seizure, the Humane Society would have called us, and then the Humane Society and the county would have had to help subsidize the horses. Because they talked him into surrendering the horses, it’s all on us.”
Aside from caring for horses, TEARS also adopts horses out.
Of the 17 horses TEARS is currently caring for, most are in various states of recuperation, but three are ready for adoption.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of interest at this time for horse adoption and only one horse was adopted out by TEARS over the winter.
“We’ve picked up six horses in the past two months and no one is interested in adopting right now. People just don’t have the funds,” Hull said.
Anyone interested in making a donation to TEARS can email them at email@example.com or call them at (423) 272-6599.